Earlier this week I introduced you to the geographical setting I’ll be working in this summer and shared some history of our new employer, Space Camp Turkey. Today I elaborate on what exactly we will be doing and how it relates to communication.
International Summer Camp
As stated on Tuesday, the Space Camp is open all year and offers programs mostly for 9-15 year old children; the programs last up to a week and can be as short as two days. In a few weeks the International Summer Camp will begin and it consists of six-day programs that bring in children from all over the world. The campers are exposed to an education about space exploration history and receive a plethora of hands-on learning experiences, including opportunities to make and launch their own rockets and Mars colonies. The highlights of the week for most are the simulators allowing students to feel like astronauts/cosmonauts do when they are operating a space shuttle and performing experiments in outer space. There is a simulated mission in which a group of campers (about 7-13 per group) work together to complete a launch and experiments in space. The summer program also focuses on teaching the kids to appreciate, respect and work well with other cultures.
Many times a group includes kids from several different countries and it is the first time any of them have interacted with someone outside their own culture. To facilitate cross-cultural companionship even further, the week includes a cultural night allowing the campers to share something from their own cultures with the group and a barbecue night which is, in essence, an giant intercultural dance party.
I’ve had a few people ask me how a space camp job applies to my own studies of communication. Space research applies to communication in many ways and the work at this space camp applies to one of my focus areas, intercultural communication, extraordinarily well.
Space (Camp) and Communication
The importance of space exploration and space travel will only increase for future generations as our technology improves and it becomes easier for us to explore the skies. Just about one hour ago, for instance, the private company SpaceX is made history by becoming the first commercial spacecraft to actually deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
Communication is crucial for successfully completing space missions. The physical and social sciences work best when they work together and this is perhaps best exemplified in past, present, and future space exploration failures and successes. When communication is faulty, disaster strikes. One example is the Challenger disaster, which was caused by faulty small-group communication and incompetent organizational culture within NASA. When large groups of people communicate successfully and efficiently, amazing things become accomplished, such as the miraculous recovery during the Apollo 13 mission. Human beings will always be explorers and space will forever fascinate us as the ‘final frontier’. Of course, communication will be used to share all of the research the space explorers will be engaging in. I am excited by the fact that the founder of SpaceX, for instance, has been updating us on today’s progress via his Twitter account. Of course, SpaceX also has a Twitter account. Space camp teaches kids about the importance of communication skills in space exploration, and this particular space camp also greatly emphasizes intercultural communication skills.
As stated above, children at this space camp come from many different cultures and are encouraged to interact with each other. Many of these cultures have different nonverbal and verbal codes of communication. Kids from individualistic societies may be taken aback by the lack of competition that kids from collectivist societies show during individual activities. Kids from conservative and passive Middle Eastern countries may be surprised by how much kids from less conservative and more assertive countries disclose about their personal lives. Space Camp Turkey allows children to interact with other cultures and this teaches them about those cultures while also helping them to make the life-long realization that respecting other cultures is extremely important.
The intercultural lessons are just as great for those of us who work at the space camp. Not only do we observe the children as they learn, we have the opportunity to interact with each of these cultures as we guide the kids through their week while simultaneously interacting with the Turkish counselors and learning all about the organizational workplace culture in Turkey. Astronaut Drew Gaffney summed up the benefits of Space Camp Turkey well when he visited here in 2005 and said the following:
It would be impossible to overstate the outstanding work being done at Space Camp Turkey. Students from all over the world come together to study and learn about outer space, but leave with not only that, but a much greater connection to our own planet and its various nationalities. Most of us who have flown in space return to Earth with a sincere belief that our own planet is small, unitary and with national borders of much less importance than we previously thought. The lucky students of Space Camp Turkey learn the same lesson in their brief stay here. - Dr. Drew Gaffney July 13th, 2005
I hope this post helps to answer the, ‘How does space camp apply to the Communication discipline?’ question. I was surprised to receive the question as often as I did because to me the relevant applications are everywhere to see. The better question might be, “How does space camp not apply to communication?”.
I can’t think of many answers to that one.